PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said another former premier, Najib Razak, must be stopped as he is "not one bit remorseful" after his court convictions over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund scandal.
"He (Najib) must be stopped. If he comes back to power, this means that the country will be controlled by a kleptocrat from the 'court cluster' and risks being robbed," said Tun Dr Mahathir in his second open letter to Johor voters on Saturday (Feb 19).
Johor will hold its state polls on March 12, with wide expectations that the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will return to power on its own, as the opposition is badly divided.
BN was ousted from Johor and federal power in the May 2018 General Election.
Dr Mahathir and others have described a faction in Umno, which is pushing for the Johor state elections, as belonging to the "court cluster", as they are facing court cases involving graft, including Najib and Umno president Zahid Hamidi.
BN logged a strong victory in the Melaka state polls held in November last year. If this victory is repeated in Johor, there are widespread expectations that a general election will be called that could put BN back in charge of the federal government.
Dr Mahathir in his open letter to Johoreans said he had no personal vendetta against Najib, but said that Najib's own brother, former banker Nazir Razak, came to see him at the height of the 1MDB scandal and asked him to do something as billions of ringgit had vanished.
Malaysia's Court of Appeal in December upheld Najib's conviction on graft charges relating to RM42 million (S$13.6 million) he received from SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1MDB. But he is out on bail and free to move about while appealing his case to the highest court, the Supreme Court.
Dr Mahathir said he was actually ashamed to always mention Najib's name.
"To tell the truth, I am ashamed to keep mentioning his name. He has humiliated Malaysia, the Malays and Islam.
"Unfortunately, he is not one bit remorseful but instead pretends to be persecuted, including by me," he said.
The United States Justice Department has said that some US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) of 1MDB funds were stolen by top Malaysian government officials and their associates.
In his first open letter to Johor voters on Feb 15, Dr Mahathir said although the "court cluster" Umno leaders are not contesting directly in Johor, they would be strengthened by a BN victory in the state.
"Some voters said that the court cluster and kleptocracy groups are not contesting in the Johor state election.
"It is true, but those who contest on Umno and BN tickets will give strength to the court cluster and kleptocracy," he wrote.
He said Najib hoped that the people of Malaysia would believe he was innocent and the victim of persecution by him and his political enemies.
Dr Mahathir, 96, said that before the 1MDB scandal, he had supported Najib and even pressured then Premier Abdullah Badawi to appoint Najib deputy prime minister.
But Dr Mahathir said Najib was not like his father.
"Unfortunately, Najib is not like his father, a dignified nationalist fighter. Najib stole the country's money with the help of Low Taek Jho.
"I will continue to denigrate Najib or anyone who tries to damage the country and deceive the people," he added.
Najib on Sunday responded to Dr Mahathir's letter, saying the latter had previously asked him to support projects by his cronies.
"I am grateful to him for supporting me to become prime minister, but after that, he also put pressure on me to support his cronies' projects," said Najib in a Facebook post.
"When I refused, he kicked up a fuss and started to plot with Muhyiddin Yassin to oust me in 2014, even before the 1MDB scandal became an issue."